At the end of filming on the heath this week for my next video, I took some time out as the mist was settling in. I felt called to pull out my drum and sing to/for the mist, and this is the result 🙂
Just beautiful. Recorded in Plum Village Monastery (set up by Thich Nhat Hanh) by Tabea with the loving support of Sister True Vow.
This is a reblog from my latest blog post at Moon Books. I hope you enjoy it, and do let me know if you’ve had similar experiences. 🙂
I had meditated and tranced for nearly an hour before my altar, to the sounds of the birds outside and Heloise Pilkington on my cd player. http://www.heloisepilkington.com/index.htm My cats joined me, sleeping in their respective spots, their purrs vibrating along my spine. As the incense burned out, I came back to myself, having danced with my goddess, diving in her mysteries and those of my own soul.
I was ready now. Time to go out, to seek her, to seek the awen. I packed a small bag with more incense and some water and made my way out of the house and onto the heath. Taking my time, walking slowly, I feel more graceful after my time spent at my altar, both within myself and within my goddess. Life goes easier on me. I ghost through the trees at the edge of the wood, where heath meets beech and oak, and thirty feet away from me are the deer. A vast herd of them, probably about a hundred, lying down basking in the warm spring sunshine. I smile and make a small wave of my hand as I pass by. They have come to know me, and do not run away, though they stand up – just in case. I feel their vibrant energy lifting my heart, and my soul runs free with theirs. I leave them where they were, carrying on along the edge, where two environments, where two entities, two souls meet and intertwine. Here is where the potential lies. Here is where power lies.
But I move on, for this is not my chosen spot. There is a very special place to me, again that lies on edges, in a small copse of birch trees on the edge of another part of the heath, where a stream marks the boundaries between woodland, heath and farmer’s fields. As I step carefully amongst the heather across this beautiful open-access land, I smile at the familiar faces of friends – the oak trees, the sandy soil, the great pines. Then I see it, my special spot, the birch trees about to burst open their buds, everything hanging in anticipation. Narcissus flower everywhere underneath the white boles, running down through the patch of woodland that hides the stream from prying eyes. Spots of yellow, like little suns, laugh and smile as they stretch towards our nearest star.
I walk beneath the birch trees, looking at the fox den and rabbit holes. I find my place, a clear space of ground and here I put down my bag. Looking around me, there are branches everywhere as the recent winds of springtime have brought many down. I gather some up, together with pieces of flint and quartz that lie upon the mossy earth. I make my circle of sticks and stones, and smile at the thought.
Lighting the incense, I walk around the circle several times, then place it carefully upon a bare patch of earth. I take my bottle of water and allow a thin stream of water to bless this sacred space. Standing at the four directions I honour them for all that they are. Within the centre I recognise and remind myself of the three worlds: land, sea and sky. I use the ritual gestures that I have created over the years to emphasize my words, to bring them into action. I breathe in the air, filled with the scents of spring, face the stream and call to my goddess.
“Lady of the sacred flame. Lady of the sacred water. Where fire and water meet is the greatest power. I honour you with all that I am, for all that you are. Lady of healing, lady of transformation, lady of poetry, lady of creativity. Show me your mysteries. I open my soul to you, to hear your song.”
A wave of energy comes towards me, nearly knocking me off my feet. I balance, and turn around, knowing that there is incense behind me. I move carefully around the incense, walking as if through treacle or dark, sticky molasses. I need to lie down. The Earth is pulling me down, down into her mysteries. Carefully I lower myself to the ground, a pair of hawks overhead crying as they circle, riding the thermals.
I close my eyes. The earth thrums beneath me, the sky singing above me. I hear it. I hear The Song.
I’ve heard it all my life. I just didn’t have words for it. I didn’t know its name. A few weeks ago, I heard those two words, Oran Mòr. It all made sense. The song of harmony, of life, of existence. The sigh of the wind through the pines, overlaid with the cries of the hawk, the soft bass of the earth and the timpany of heartbeats of every creature around me. They create a wondrous sound, a flowing song that speaks of life, of constant creation, or whirling through time and space. It sings of this blue planet and the stars’ dancing round. The sound of distant cars are tuned to the wind. Everything is singing.
The song fades, and my eyes begin to open, but I am not yet ready to let it go. I refocus, and tune into it once again. There is my own melody within the song, and the deer and the fox, the blackbird and the pheasant. There are the rocks and the slow pulsing of lava beneath the earth’s surface. There are the soft notes of the light clouds overhead and the bright arias of all the stars in the sky hidden by daylight. I let this sound soak into my skin, into my being. Slowly it fades, and I smile as I now know a new secret. I have heard a new song, the song of my goddess, the song of all existence, and it is exquisite.
Slowly I get up, thanking the gods and the spirits of place for their beauty. I take down my circle, the memory of the Oran Mòr still bright within my soul. I know that it is not something I can yet carry with me all the time – it is still too powerful, too enchanting. I would be off my head if I did. That wonderful, ecstatic moment is my inspiration, my awen, and my channel to tap into Source. I know where to plug in now.
Slowly walking back home, I see the horses in the paddocks, a beautiful white horse frolicking with his smaller, dark friend. He looks at me, his gorgeous long face reminding me of Shadowfax, Gandalf’s horse from Lord of the Rings, descended from a race of noble equines called Mearas. Here is a modern day Mearas, his intelligent eyes looking into my soul, his playful heart and light foot moving joyously over the ground. He trots up and down his paddock, showing off his beautiful gait, where he barely touches the ground. I smile in pure joy. He canters, slides to a stop, and trots back with his friend at his side. His antics bring over the other horses from the other side of the fence. I open my soul to him in friendship, but he is too caught up in Springtime. I smile and leave them to their games beneath the warm sun, and head home, the memory of the Song still humming deep within my veins.
This is what it means to be alive.
Joanna van der Hoeven is a Moon Books author with three titles released in the Pagan Portals series, including the No.1 Amazon bestseller The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid. She is indebted to author Alison Leigh Lily for bringing those two words, Oran Mòr to her consciousness.
Here is my “revised ending” to the traditional song/story of Willie and Mary, which, in its various guises, always bothered me how the woman just accepted being tested by her love after years and years of waiting. She never got upset about being tested after all that time. Me, I’d tell him where to go. So here’s my offering – the last two verses are my “revisited version”. 🙂
Willie and Mary (revisited)
As Willie and Mary met by the seaside
A long farewell for to take
Said Mary to Willie, “If you go away
I’m afraid my poor heart, it might break”
“Oh don’t be afraid, dearest Mary,” he said
As he clasped his fond maid to his side
“In my absence don’t mourn, for when I return
I will make you, sweet Mary, my bride”
Seven long years had passed and no word at last
Mary stood by her own cottage door
A beggar came by with a patch on his eye
Bedraggled and ragged and tore
“Your charity, fair maid, bestow upon me
Your fortune I’ll tell you beside
Your lad that you mourn will never return
To make little Mary his bride”
She slipped and she started, saying, “All that I have
It’s freely to you I will give
If you tell me true what I now ask of you
Is my Willie dead or alive?”
“He’s living,” said he, “though in sad poverty
And shipwrecked he has been beside
When he’d money untold and pockets of gold
He’d have made little Mary his bride”
“Then if he is dead, no other I’ll wed
No other I’ll have by my side
For in riches though rolled or covered with gold
He’d have made his own Mary his bride”
Then the patch off his eye the old beggar let fly
His old coat and crutches beside
And in sailor’s blue clothes and with cheeks like the rose
It was Willie who stood by her side
“Oh don’t be afraid, dearest Mary,” he said
“It was only your faith that I tried
To the church we’ll away by the break of the day
And I’ll make little Mary my bride”
With eyes afire did Mary face the liar
“My faith was not yours to be tried
I’ve kept my heart mired, I never did tire
And your test I’ll no longer abide
Through the longest of nights have I cried and I cried
Seven long years I stayed true
Though suitors have tried they lay not by my side
All for my sweet love in you
But now you’ve impressed, beggarly dressed
And lied to me, thinking you’re dead
Your love’s not the best if it requires a test
My own company I’ll keep instead”
What does it mean to be an animist in today’s world? Druid Emma Restall Orr describes animism as that which acknowledges the inherent value in all things. This description, for me, is the best offered so far.
Many people can see animism as a throw-back to times when people were not so intelligent; the cavemen who believed in spirits imbuing inanimate objects. What I would offer is a redefinition of inanimate for, in my worldview, nothing could be inanimate.
How is this so? Well, I’m not a physicist however I’m pretty sure that everything is composed of atoms that are constantly moving (atomic theory). Ancient philosopher Heraclitus theorised this yonks ago, claiming that everything is in a state of flux. Therefore, how could anything be inanimate? Most people, when considering the word inanimate, seem to think of things that don’t move, that aren’t “alive”.
So how does the dictionary define inanimate? There are a few: 1.not animate; lifeless. 2.spiritless; sluggish; dull. Synonyms: inorganic, vegetable, mineral; inert, dead. 2. inactive, dormant, torpid. Considering these descriptions, we must also consider the word “alive”. Oxford English dictionary describes it as 1.(of a person, animal, or plant) living, not dead; 2. continuing in existence or use. Not very helpful, is it? Animate is something that is not lifeless, and alive is something that is not dead. So what is dead then?
I could go on. Is the desk that my computer on dead? When did it cease to live? It is still in existence and continuing in existence and use, as the OED states something that is alive does. The only change has been in the form of the matter. When someone dies, they change through the processes of decay, returning to the earth. So have they truly died, or merely changed form?
If we cannot define what is alive and what is dead, what is animate and what is inanimate, then in essence everything should be treated equally. With such loose terms we cannot and should not push aside what we do not fully comprehend. Yet every single day millions of people do so, declaring that something is merely a tool, a resource, something to be used for their personal benefit. The inherent value in something is in relation to its usefulness. Again, usefulness is such a broad and subjective term.
If the oceans are merely a resource, if a chicken is only a resource, then it loses its inherent value in the fact of it simply being. We can then abuse it to our own purpose – mostly selfishness and greed. We are able to pollute the seas because we no longer respect them. We cage hens and kill them once their usefulness in egg-production is up, or dairy cows when they have “dried up”. They no longer have any value.
Animism honours each and every thing for what it is, whether it is bird or bee, human or cat, tree or rock, mountain or lake. Each thing is made up of millions of other things. Each individual thing on this planet contains parts of other things. Not only is everything inherent in its own being and value, but everything is interconnected.
Everything is made up of nothing – the essential building blocks of everything is nothing, if we go deeper in physics. In this, we are all connected. We are all made up of things that are constantly in motion – energy always moving and creating different forms that we recognise as sibling, house, lorry. For me, this blows my mind.
So does this mean that I need to bow down and worship the lorry that takes away our recycling? Well, no, not really, though it’s an interesting concept. Many pagans who also are animists have an apprehension or dislike for bowing down to anyone – but that is a separate issue. I have no problem in bowing to my gods. We then have to define what constitutes deity. Again, I digress.
Recognising the inherent value of everything does not mean worshipping it. So, in seeing that the blackbird is energy taken form as a black-feathered bird with glorious song, I can see its inherent beauty and value. But what of things we do not consider to be beautiful? I would posit that as beauty is so subjective, there can again be no limits on value. Is a virus beautiful? For me personally, I think it is a remarkable thing. For someone who is dying from one, they may not see it in such a light.
Animism today is not walking around believing that the Moon is a goddess (though it may be for some, to each their own). It sees the inherent value of the moon and acknowledges it. We can honour as deity what the moon does to our planet, to ourselves. We can attach godlike qualities to these phenomena, creating a relationship with it through seeing them as archetypes. We can lose the whole archetype consideration altogether and think of gods as things that can kill. Deity has far too many definitions and is again so subjective. It can be hard to have a relationship with something as vast as a mountain, so we create gods that we can relate to on a human level. It is difficult to have a relationship with an abstract, such as love, or anger. We relate to these as gods when we see the value of them and how they affect our lives. The thunderstorm is simply a thunderstorm, yet it is also a wondrous coming together of energies that can change our lives forever.
In Druidry, we often hear the term “the song”. This is a poetic phrase to mean the energy and quality of a certain thing, whether it is the song of the wind through the leaves, or of the cat hunting in the backyard. It is the coming together of energies creating something that has its own inherent value simply by its matter of being. In animism, the song is what defines something as different from other things.
Through animism today, we can learn to create better relationships with the world around us. We learn of compassion and understanding, of differences and similarities. We learn a new sense of gratitude and wonder. In my opinion, these things are not childlike or primitive, but the essential parts of being an evolved being.
This blog post is my contribution to The Animists Carnival: http://lifthrasirsuccess.wordpress.com/animist-blog-carnival/
(This month, blog Eaarth Animist is the host)